Energy Bill expected to be signed by end of week

| 7/29/2005

The first far-reaching Energy Bill in nearly half a decade was approved by the Senate on Friday, July 29, and is expected to be signed into law by President Bush over the weekend.

  The House of Representatives voted in favor of the sprawling, 1,725-page version of the bill on Thursday, July 28. The legislation contains a number of measures that could affect the trucking industry.

The president had asked for a final version of the bill by Saturday, Aug. 1, before the legislature departs for its five-week summer recess. The House approved its version of the bill on April 27, and the Senate on June 28. The conference committee has been ironing out the differences since then.

One of the biggest missing items from the final bill is a provision that would’ve authorized oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The House approved the measure in its version of the bill in April, but it was not in the final conference committee version.

The use of biofuels was also addressed in the bill. By 2012, all refineries must use 7.5 billion gallons of renewable fuels, although sources in Washington said the measure is aimed more at increased ethanol production than biodiesel.

Another section of the bill authorizes approximately $95 million in the next three years for the EPA’s SmartWay Transport Partnership, to “establish a program to support deployment of idle reduction and energy conservation technologies.”

One amendment that did not make the final cut was opposed by Sen. Christopher Bond, R-MO, and Sen. Carl Levin, D-MI. The measure would have required manufacturers to virtually double fuel mileage for big rigs. It would have mandated a 6.5-mile-per-gallon increase for non-passenger vehicles in the next 11 years and an increase of 12.5 miles per gallon for four-wheelers in the same time frame.

Instead, Bond and Levin proposed and gained approval of an amendment that keeps auto standards under National Highway Traffic Safety Administration authority.

However, another amendment that would benefit truckers survived the conference committee negotiations. Sponsored by Sen. George Voinovich, R-OH, it provides for truck owners to receive part of up to $1 billion in funding to replace their older trucks, or retrofit them to meet emissions standards.

The Energy Bill also includes a provision to increase the length of daylight-saving time, which currently begins on the first Sunday of April and ends on the last Sunday of October. The amendment adds one month to the current plan by pushing the beginning date back to the second Sunday of March and the ending date to first Sunday of November.

– By Aaron Ladage, staff writer